Monday, December 31, 2012

Gayniggers from Outer Space (1992) Review

Director: Morten Lindberg
Genre: Science Fiction, Comedy, Exploitation

Well, if you couldn't tell from the title, this is a film that isn't exactly meant to be taken seriously. It also happens to be about homosexual black men from another planet.

So these homosexual black men (or gay niggers if you prefer) are from a planet called Anus. They fly around in their tin-foil space ship and look for planets that have females on them. They then go down to said planet, in this case it's Earth, and they exterminate all the females. The men of Earth welcome these Gayniggers, and give them hugs when they kill their wives (perhaps because they're liberated from heterosexual oppression or maybe they just hated their wives). Once the planet is completely rid of females the Gayniggers leave behind a Gay Ambassador to watch over the planet and they go back into space, searching for the next planet for them to save.

The Gayniggers are made up of none other than Captain B. Dick, Sergeant Shaved Balls, D. Ildo, and ArmInAss.

The film's only 25 minutes long and for what it is it's enjoyable. Satirizing, I suppose, blaxploitation, science fiction, and even racism and homosexuality. And this short film is pretty damn racist. Stereotyping Asians, Germans, and pretty much any race they encounter.

It's obviously amateurish, it's obviously not meant to be serious, and it obviously only has cult appeal. But it's pretty amusing. The tin-foil space ship looks like something out of an Ed Wood movie, the dubbing is (probably intentionally) awful. If it was any longer than 25 minutes it'd probably get boring and annoying, but as it is it's not bad at all.

The soundtrack is also surprisingly good. I'm not sure if it's original or not.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Waxworks (1924) Review

Director: Paul Leni, Leo Birinski
Stars: Emil Jannings, Conrad Veidt, Werner Krauss, William Dieterle
Genre: German Expressionism, Fantasy, Horror

Waxworks is an early anthology film which consists of three stories of ranging genres.

Paul Leni directs, the same man who later went on to direct two great horror classics, The Cat and the Canary and The Man Who Laughs. William Dieterle, who also acts in here, serves as assistant director, he later went on to direct many more films. It's written by Henrik Galeen, who also wrote The Golem and Nosferatu. Alfred Junge was the set decorator, who later worked on many Michael Powell films and even on Hitchcock's original The Man Who Knew Too Much.

Anyway, onto the story. A young poet, played by William Dieterle, accepts a job at a wax museum where he is to write back stories for each of the wax figures.

The first story he writes is for Harun al-Rashid, played wonderfully by Emil Jannings, who you may recognize from more popular films such as Faust, The Last Laugh, The Last Command, The Blue Angel, or Tartuff. It's a nice little tale that involves thievery, adultery, and even a bit of magic. This one definitely falls into the adventure genre and the epic sets definitely reflect that. This first story was also pretty funny at times and even had a hint of slapstick to it. 

Emil Jannings in Waxworks

The second story is about the czar of Russia, Ivan the Terrible, played by one of my favorite actors of the era, Conrad Veidt, who you probably know as Cesare from The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari or from his also great performances in The Hands of Orlac, The Man Who Laughs, The Thief of Bagdad, or his later role as the Major in Casablanca. The story itself of this one was kind of boring at first, it's kind of like a historical film that flirts with horror, but the excellent ending made up for it. The sets and costumes are wonderfully dark and twisted. 

Conrad Veidt in Waxworks

The third and final story, which is just the poet dreaming, is the most disappointing. It's only five minutes long though so I can't complain much. The poet dreams that he and his girlfriend are being chased by Jack the Ripper...expect the Jack the Ripper is really Spring Heeled Jack. Nothing really happens, he just wakes up and it ends. The sets here are still great, and Jack the Ripper is played by Werner Krauss, who is recognizable as Dr. Caligari from The Cabinet of, and he also co-starred with Emil Jannings in Tartuff. Though his part is very short here, he still does a solid job. This last part just felt very lazy and missed a lot of potential; they had a great character, Jack the Ripper, played by a great actor, in a great setting, but they failed to capitalize on any of that and what could have been amazing ended up being mediocre. 

Waxworks 1924 still

That's really all there is to say about Waxworks. An anthology film that has hints of horror, fantasy, and adventure, with some great talent behind it, though much missed potential. Worth watching for its great visuals and actors. 

3.5/5 stars

Purchase Waxworks on Amazon: DVD - German Horror Classics Collection

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Jack Frost (1997) Review

Jack Frost 1997 poster
Director: Michael Cooney
Stars: Christopher Allport, Shannon Elizabeth, Scott MacDonald
Genre: B-movie, Comedy, Horror

No, I'm not talking about the 1998 Christmas comedy starring Michael Keaton and Kelly Preston that was also called Jack Frost. I'm talking about the horror comedy about a killer snowman that came out the year prior and was called Jack Frost.

The film is about a small mountain town which becomes terrorized by a killer man turned killer snowman (by means of some chemical exposure or something...). Anyway, the town must try and stop the killer snowman before he kills everybody.

Looking at the poster and reading the synopsis, it's impossible not to see this as a B-movie slasher. And it is. That's exactly what it is; a B-movie slasher that will make you laugh more than it will scare you and is probably self-aware of itself in doing so. It's over-the-top and outrageous and nothing has much logic to it. The kind of movie you watch because it's so-bad-it's-good. But that's the thing...Jack Frost isn't so bad. It's a pretty decently made film that goes beyond its camp to make it an enjoyable film. 

Like Twin Peaks and Fargo before it, Jack Frost manages to capture that small mountain town coziness. I just love that atmosphere and anyone who has watched Twin Peaks or Fargo knows exactly what I'm talking about. I dunno, maybe it's an easy atmosphere to capture, but Jack Frost does it nearly as well as all the others. And I like that. So, contrary to what you may expect from a film of this nature, Jack Frost has a great atmosphere.

The cinematographer and directing is also very well done. There's some great camera angles and camera positioning. Like the scene with the frozen guy in the rocking chair. That scene was incredibly well shot. And there's a few other scenes like that too. So with it's good atmosphere and camera work, the film actually becomes very visually pleasing. 

Jack Frost 1997 axe

Some of the dialogue is extremely well written also. Don't get me wrong, there's still that cheesy, embarrassing  cliched, and whatever other adjective may fit, dialogue that pretty much sucks. But not all of it's bad. I will return to the rocking chair scene as an example. For the entire scene the chair is rocking back and forth as the police officers talk (it is indeed the rocking that makes the scene so visually pleasing) and then right at the end of the scene one cop says to the other "Get your damn foot off the chair." So as much bad dialogue as there is, there's nearly an equal amount of good. 

The slasher antagonist (the snowman aka Jack Frost) unfortunately is pretty dull. I can't say any of the characters are terribly good, but Jack Frost is one that should have been. You know how in B-movie slasher comedies they try to make the slasher funny, quotable, and somewhat of a mascot? Yeah, well sometimes that works well (see ThanksKilling). In Jack Frost, it doesn't work. Not only is the snowman incredibly fake and cheesy looking (which can be forgiven given the film's nature) but he's also not funny at all. He feels dull and forced. Which is unfortunate.

Jack Frost 1997 snowman bathtub rape

In fact, I'd say the first half of the film is heaps better than the second. I honestly think that Jack Frost is a well made film but an awfully made B-movie slasher (even more-so than B-movie slashers tend to be). Once the slasher shows up the film went down hill for me. But the set-up and the first half is pretty damn good. I wish that instead of taking the cheesy horror route the director and writer tried to make a more serious well-crafted film, and I think they definitely had the skill to do it.

Jack frost 1997

Unfortunately, what we're left with is a B-movie slasher that has its moments but does the B-movie slasher parts awfully and all the other parts pretty well. It's still worth the watch and is pretty enjoyable (especially the first half). I'd watch this again. There's also a sequel, Jack Frost 2: Revenge of the Mutant Killer Snowman.

3/5 stars

Purchase Jack Frost on Amazon: DVD - VHS

Friday, December 28, 2012

The Golem (1920) Review

The Golem 1920 psoter
Director: Paul Wegener, Carl Boese
Stars: Paul Wegener, Albert Steinruck, Carl Boese
Genre: German Expressionism, Fantasy, Horror
Also known as: Der Golem, The Golem: How He Came Into the World

An early work of cinematic German Expressionism based on the 1915 novel of the same name by Gustav Meyrink, but the tale's roots go back hundreds of years to Jewish folklore stories.

So, basically, a Jewish rabbi creates a golem from clay and uses sorcery to bring him to life in order to protect the Jews of Prague from persecution. The only problem is, the Golem ends up causing a few problems for everyone due to some after-effects of the spell used to bring him to life...or something along those lines.

It kind of felt like a Frankenstein-esque story, and I've even heard that James Whale took inspiration from this while directing Frankenstein (1931). There's even a scene in here where a little girl gives the monster a flower, similar to the scene in Frankenstein.

There's not much to say about this one. It's solid German Expressionism, though it didn't quite captivate me as well as many others of the genre have. It just felt a little boring to me.

The set design is pretty awesome, designed by the wonderful architect, Hans Poelzig. It manages to have a twisted feel, but not as surreal as, for example, the sets of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.

The cinematography is well-done, Karl Freund being the head cinematographer. Freund is known for his work on other film, such as Metropolis, The Last Laugh, Key Largo, and he's even directed a few films, most noteworthy being Universal's The Mummy and Mad Love, the remake to German Expressionist classic, The Hands of Orlac. The Golem was once of the earlier projects he worked on, but his charm is ever present.

A still from 1920 German Expressionist film, The Golem

Paul Wegener, who also directs, plays the Golem. The Golem actually looks pretty funny, though the make-up isn't bad. There are some pretty cool special effects here, or really only during one part specifically, when they were reading the spells. For its time it was actually pretty amazing.

It wasn't bad but I wasn't overly impressed by it. I can really only recommend it to fans of German Expressionism or those interested in Jewish mysticism. 

3/5 stars

Purchase The Golem on Amazon: DVD 

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Django Unchained (2012) Review

Django Unchained poster
Part of Merry Christmas and Happy Tarantino Month!

Director: Quentin Tarantino
Stars: Christoph Waltz, Jamie Foxx, Leonardo DiCaprio
Genre: Revisionist Western

Tarantino's latest film, Django Unchained, is quite the violence-packed roller-coaster and is one of the most enjoyable pictures of the year. Tarantino has done a heist epic, a crime epic, a martial arts revenge epic, a WWII epic, and now he has done his western epic.

The story follows Django (Foxx), a slave that is promised his freedom if he helps a bounty hunter (Waltz) to find three brothers whom only he can recognize. However, Django also has plans to rescue his also slaved wife from Calvin Candie (DiCaprio), a rich slaver and slave fighter.

Inspired by the likes of Corbucci's Django (1966) (there's a very nice Franco Nero cameo in here) and its many sequels, Mandingo (1975), Charley One-Eye (1973), The Wild Bunch (1969), hell, there's even traces of Bonanza in here.

The violence is incredibly over-the-top and exaggerated...and, quite frankly, awesome. There's plenty of blood and even some gore and it all looks great and is presented in a very stylish manner. The film makes blood look beautiful. 

It's not a film that takes itself seriously or wants to be taken seriously. It's over-the-top in every sense of the word. It's spaghetti western in its purest form. The film has dynamite in it despite the film being set 9 years before dynamite was invented. Calvin Candie has a Nefertiti Bust in his home even though it wasn't discovered until 1912. Django wears sunglasses even though glasses in the 19th century were strictly for the visual impaired. People, dear people, do not take this movie too seriously. Perhaps the only thing serious (and I hesitate even now) is the brutal and horrifying portrayal of slavery that the film presents with no holds barred.

Jamie Foxx Django Unchained

The action scenes are intense, from the opening scene to the final shootout there's some nice gun-play in here. I would've liked to have seen the ole' six-shooter get a bit more action in here, being that it's a spaghetti western and runs for nearly two and a half hours I expected to see a little more gun-slinging action. But what is present is great. And I suppose the ridiculous inaccuracy of the enemies was intentional, but, for me, it kind of ruined some of the magic and awe.

Django Unchained blood

But, as with most Tarantino films, for every second of violence there is an equal amount of slow-paced, talky scenes. There are some really great scenes in here aside from the violent action ones. The dialogue and long-takes at Calvin Candie's dinner table is suspenseful and intense and ultimately very powerful. The saloon scene is funny. The opening scene is epic. The pre-Civil War, and indeed pre-KKK, lynch mob scene was, though a little out of place, very funny.

Leonardo DiCaprio Django Unchained

The dialogue, though I'd hardly call it Tarantino's best work, though it's certainly up there, is pretty darn good. I also very much adored the costume design; all the attire was remarkably awesome looking and visually pleasant.

Has a Tarantino film ever had anything short of amazing acting? I'd say no, and Django Unchained is no exception. Both cast and acting is superb. Jamie Foxx does a great job as Django, probably his career defining performance. I'm sure his performance impressed many who failed to ever see him as a serious actor (but all the years of my childhood I spent watching The Jamie Foxx Show taught me that he is a capable performer). Leonardo DiCaprio does an amazing job in his first Tarantino feature (also the first time in 16 years that he didn't get top-billing on a film), but it's hardly unexpected given DiCaprio's always great performances. I'd say though that Christoph Waltz, returning from Inglorious Basterds, stole the show. Simply fabulous job by Waltz. Samuel L Jackson had a role in here as a much older character than he usually plays, and he did a solid job but it definitely wasn't Jackson at his best in my opinion. I'd even go so far as to say that his performance in here has been a bit overrated by most critics.

Christoph Waltz and Jamie Foxx in Django Unchained

Any film buffs will recognize the many nods to other films (along with other pop culture references) and the many cameos, cameos which include Tom Savini, Zoe Bell, Franco Nero, Michael Parks, James Russo, and of course even the director himself.

The soundtrack...ah, the soundtrack. It's a solid soundtrack, good even, but, compared to Tarantino's other films, a bit of a let down. Not so much that any of it is bad, a lot of it just felt misplaced to me. The Rick Ross song wasn't as awful (in terms of suiting the film) as I was afraid it may have been. Obviously the Django theme (taken from the 1966 Django) is perfect for the film. The many reused Ennio Morricone compositions were great. I don't know, just as a whole the soundtrack and score didn't leave me terribly impressed and some points felt a bit off to me. It's not bad though.

Jamie Foxx and Franco Nero (cameo) in Django Unchained

Django Unchained is a great film and it's incredibly enjoyable (I've seen it four times in theaters so far). It's far from Tarantino's best--Inglorious Basterds is far better in my opinion, though it's a great improvement over Death Proof--and it's definitely not his most intelligent film (it's pretty mindless) but it is a worthy one nonetheless. Very much worth the price of admission.

4/5 stars

Purchase Django Unchained on Amazon: Blu-Ray - DVD - Soundtrack

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Treevenge (2008) Review

Treevenge poster
Director: Jason Eisener
Stars: Johnathan Torrens, Sarah Dunsworth
Genre: Horror, Black Comedy

Treevenge is a 16 minute short film directed by Jason Eisener, the same guy who directed the Hobo With a Shotgun fake trailer for Grindhouse, and also the full-length version of Hobo With a Shotgun from 2011.

In Treevenge we get to see Christmas from the perspective of Christmas trees. We see their pain and suffering which they are forced to endure all in the name of the holiday season. The trees are chopped down, dragged out of their forests and away from their families, and then put up for sale for people to put them in their houses. Well, the trees are sick of it and decide to take revenge on humans everywhere!

The film, in all its goofiness and absurdity, actually makes you sympathize with the trees...and also makes you want to never buy a Christmas tree again, because of sadness and fear...anyway...

It's a very enjoyable short with some great references to the likes of Evil Dead and '70s and '80s horror in general. Many parts of the film are deliberately shot in that '70s style.

The same theme from Cannibal Holocaust plays at the beginning of Treevenge, so you can be sure to expect some violence. You really don't understand the true powers of trees until you see them choke people to death and gouge out their eyeballs. Plenty of gore here done with some awesome effects. 

Johnathan Torrens and Sarah Dunsworth are in here, who fans of Trailer Park Boys will surely recognize. (J-Roc and Sarah).

Treevenge 2008

At 16 minutes long it's definitely worth the watch, especially during the Christmas season. A charming, funny, and gory short. Plus you can watch it for free on Vimeo or YouTube (the Vimeo link is better quality).

3.5/5 stars

Friday, December 21, 2012

Inglorious Basterds (2009) Review

Inglorious Basterds poster
Part of Merry Christmas and Happy Tarantino Month!

Director: Quentin Tarantino
Stars: Brad Pitt, Cristoph Waltz, Melanie Laurent, Diane Kruger, Eli Roth
Genre: War, Comedy, Macaroni Combat

Tarantino's most recent film (not counting Django Unchained, which, as of writing, will be released in a few days) and boy what a fantastic film it is. If Kill Bill was his Martial Arts Revenge Epic, then Inglorious Basterds is certainly his War Epic.

I should say that it's a little hard for me to review this one. Whereas I've seen all of Tarantino's other films a multitude of times, I've only watched Inglorious Basterds twice (as of writing). I do like it, however many of the reasons why I like it are unknown to me. It's a very subjective movie for me. Anyway, onward to the review!

The film concerns two plots to kill Adolf Hitler. The first plot is a Special Unit of American soldiers who have plans to kill Hitler. At the same time a Jewish girl who owns a cinema also has plans to kill Hitler. The American soldiers and the Jewish girl know nothing of each other's plans, but they end up indirectly effecting each other.

There's some fantastic scenes in here. The opening scene is marvelous and intense. It shows just how ruthless the Nazis can be. The scene that follows shortly after, with American soldiers torturing Nazis for information, also a marvelous scene, shows us just how ruthless the Americans can be. Other favorite scenes of mine include the tavern scene and the cinema scene.

Inglorious Basterds is a sort of Macaroni Combat film, the Spaghetti Western of war. There is no shortage of graphic violence in here. People getting their faces shot up, their heads bashed in. It's a very violent movie, and you either love that or hate it. But that by no means makes it a realistic film, on the contrary it's a very exaggerated (stylized even) and comedic film. 

Films don't often make me laugh out loud, but Inglorious Basterds manged to make me. The scene with three American jarheads trying to pretend to be Italians is hilarious. One of the funniest things I've ever watched. As violent and savage as Inglorious Basterds can be, it also has it's very funny moments. 

Inglorious Basterds tavern scene

There's many of Tarantino's signature long-takes, and many scenes go on for minutes upon minutes with nothing but dialogue carrying them. It's very dangerous to leave the audience with nothing but talking for such long takes but Tarantino proves again and again that he can pull it off (except for maybe in Death Proof). The film is very well written and the dialogue is great. We never really get to know the characters very well, and I can't say the character development is terribly great, but the characters are all quite interesting. 

Eli Roth and Brad Pitt in Inglorious Basterds

The cast and performances are great. Brad Pitt does a fabulous job as a (somewhat dumb, yet always capable)  American soldier. Eli Roth, who I usually don't much like as an actor (or as a director for that matter), I didn't mind at all in here. He did a good job. Christoph Waltz perhaps steals the show here as a Nazi soldier. You'll see other faces like Mike Myers or hear the voices of Samuel L. Jackson and Harvey Keitel. It's, as are all Tarantino films, a wonderfully cast film.

The soundtrack here is much less vocal and pop compared to Tarantino's other films. There's a lot of Ennio Morricone stuff taken from other films that sounds great. There's even a David Bowie song in here...very odd indeed. It is a very good soundtrack, though perhaps not as stand-out as you may expect. 

Melanie Laurent in Inglorious Basterds

Inglorious Basterds is a highly enjoyable film, and while it may be a genre film turned art film, I think one must watch it primarily for entertainment. It's far from a serious movie, but if you know how to approach it I think you'll find yourself very pleased.

4.5/5 stars

Purchase Inglorious Basterds on Amazon: Blu-Ray - DVD - Stream - Combo

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Blue Sunshine (1976) Review

Blue Sunshine 1976 poster
Director: Jeff Lieberman
Stars: Zalman King, Deborah Winters
Genre: Horror, Thriller, Mystery

Blue Sunshine is a damn fine cult horror film. Easily one of my favorite rarities.

It's about people who begin losing their hair and suddenly turn into complete psychopaths and kill anyone near them. The film follows Jerry Zipkin who tries to uncover the mystery of why all this is happening, while also fleeing from police who are accusing him of a murder that he didn't quite commit. Jerry finds that all the people who are losing their hair and turning psycho had taken a certain kind of LSD, known as Blue Sunshine, ten years ago.

This is definitely a horror of its era. I love the idea that your past never leaves you and indeed sometimes comes back to haunt you. People who did LSD start going crazy ten years later, pretty much making them ticking time bombs? Awesome. Keep in mind that this was released in 1976, nearly ten years after the peak of the hippie movement, i.e., when the most LSD was done. So it must of been even scarier then.

And Blue Sunshine is a pretty scary movie. Never does it feel very cheap or low-budget. Seeing bald people  go psycho is funny, cool, and horrifying all at once. Not to mention it creates some awesome imagery; bald heads, bulging eyeballs. The opening scene was so sudden and eerie that it really scared the shit out of me. Then later on in the film it slows down a bit and plays out more like a mystery.

The suspense is really good too. Just knowing someone is about to lose control and become a murderous psycho is intense, especially when they're in a room with a young child. The film really makes good use of the psychotic break-outs, putting us in the room with surgeons performing surgery or babysitters watching a child, it's nerve-racking knowing that they could snap at any moment.

Blue Sunshine 1976

The film's atmosphere is great. It has an almost Argento-esque feel to it. Creepy to say the least. It even has a bit of a psychedelic sense to it (which I suppose is appropriate) though it never crosses the line to surrealism.

The soundtrack is pretty awesome and Zalman King's insane performance is quite amusing to watch.

Blue Sunshine 1976

It's a cult classic that I can easily recommend to anyone and it will surely leave you with some chilling imagery in your mind.

4/5 stars

Purchase Blue Sunshine on Amazon: DVD - Stream - Elvira Double Pack 

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Death Proof (2007) Review

Tarantino's Death Proof poster
Part of Merry Christmas and Happy Tarantino Month! 

Director: Quentin Tarantino
Stars: Kurt Russell, Rose McGowan, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Zoe Bell, Rosario Dawson
Genre: Action, Thriller, Exploitation

One half of the Rodriquez-Tarantino double-feature, Grindhouse. The other half being Rodriquez's Planet Terror. Tarantino has been quoted saying that this is the worst film he's ever made. Well, it sure ain't that bad for his worst.

The premise is simple. There's a guy named Stuntman Mike (Russell) and he likes to crash his "death proof" car into cars that are driven by beautiful women and, in some cases, kill them. It's essentially a slasher plot.

This film was intentionally made to resemble the '70s grindhouse B-movies, both in plot and in style. In that sense the film is successful. Intentional damage was done to the film to achieve the worn look of many exploitation films and there's numerous jump-cuts and audio cut-outs that all add to the film's great style.

The film has its slower talky moments and it also has its contrasting action scenes.

The action scenes are great. Zoe Bell (who also has a large role in the film) served as the main stunt performer. [Fun fact: Zoe Bell was also Uma Thurman's stunt double in Kill Bill.] The car scenes are great and this film has one of the coolest chase scenes you'll ever see. The first crash scene is awesomely detailed and replayed from numerous angles. There could have been a lot more action though. It's nearly a two hour film and the action goes like this: short (but awesome) car crash in the first half of the film, girl driving around on the hood of a car for a few minutes in the second half of the film, great chase scene in the last ten minutes of the film. So most of the film is without action, which wouldn't usually be a problem except...

Mary Elizabeth Winstead Death Proof

...The slow scenes in Death Proof pretty much suck. Well, maybe that's not completely fair. Much of the first half of the film was very enjoyable (with the first batch of girls). The first half also had better characters (in my opinion, though most of the characters were pretty awful) and features one of the greatest lap-dance scenes ever put to film. So the first half, in the bar, was pretty good. But Tarantino, a man known for his dialogue and skill in crafting slow long-take scenes, really failed to bring great dialogue or scenes. The scene where those four girls are in a diner eating (the camera spinning around the table like in Reservoir Dogs) is one of the worst scenes I've ever watched (I will admit there was one cool line: "You know what happens to motherfuckers who carry knives? They get shot!").

Jungle Julie Death Proof

Allow me to make one thing clear: nearly every scene with Kurt Russell is five star material. He's great in here and he really carries the film. His dialogue is very well written and him as a character is very interesting. Unfortunately there's not much of Russell in here. He really only appears during the action scenes. I also didn't like how he became a whiny bitch in the second half, but whatever.

Death Proof lap dance

So the dialogue goes like this: In the first half it's pretty good (though far from Tarantino's best), in the second half it's sometimes decent but mostly mediocre, and anything that comes out of Kurt Russell's mouth is gold.

I definitely liked the first half better than the second half. The only good part in the second half is the action scenes towards the end. I didn't really have a problem with the ending, it was okay.

Kurt Russell smile Death Proof

The cast here is pretty great as are the performances. Obviously Kurt Russell steals the show. Rose McGowan has a nice small role (who was also in Planet Terror and whom I have had a cinematic crush on ever since The Doom Generation). Eli Roth makes a cameo, who I don't mind at all as a person but I just for some reason really hate his face and acting. Zoe Bell, who isn't an actress, did a surprisingly good performance. There's plenty of beautiful girls in here (Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Rosario Dawson, Vanessa Ferlito, Sydney Tamiia Poitier, Tracie Thoms, Jordan Ladd). I should also note that Mary Elizabeth Winstead is at her prettiest in here. Quentin himself also makes a cameo.

The soundtrack is awesome, none of it original. My favorite track being April March's "Chick Habit" which plays during the end credits.

Rose McGowan and Kurt Russell in Death Proof

Watch Death Proof if you're a fan of exploitation or a fan of Tarantino or Kurt Russell. You'll definitely enjoy it. There was some missed opportunity and some things were just surprisingly mediocre, but all in all not a bad film.

3.5/5 stars

Purchase Death Proof on Amazon: Blu-Ray - DVD - Stream

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1964) Review

Santa Claus Conquers the Martians poster
Director: Nicholas Webster
Stars: John Call, Pia Zadora
Genre: Science Fiction, Comedy, Family

Well this is a fun one. As you may expect this is very high in camp and is of the so-bad-it's-good category. Or, if you happen to be a soulless bastard, the so-bad-it's-bad category. Frequently featured on lists of the worst films ever made.

The Martian children are very unhappy and the Martian leaders determine that what they need to cheer them up is Santa Claus. So what do the Martians do? Well, they fly to Earth, kidnap Santa and force him into slave labor of course! They also kidnap two Earth children. That's the basic premise but as you can expect from a family movie everything works out in the end. Despite what the title may imply there's no badass Santa going around killing Martians; nay, Santa conquers Mars with his good spirit and kindness!

The sets and costumes look like they were loaned by Ed Wood himself. The Martians are just men painted green with upside down scuba-diving masks as helmets (also painted green) with snorkel and all! Their guns seem to be made out of a a flashlight (?) with the end of a plunger attached to it and painted black. It's pretty hilarious but it's fun to watch. Very colorful and full of '60s camp...kind of like an episode of the 1960s Batman show.

There's an awesome robot and a scary looking polar bear, both obviously men in costumes. It just all adds to the camp value so much.

The acting is I even have to critique this as I would another film? It's all bad and that's what makes it good. It'll provide a few good laughs. 

I will admit that some of the music is dangerously catchy. S-A-N-T-A-C-L-A-U-S HOORAY FOR SANTIE CLAUS!

Santa Claus Conquers the Martians

A nice popcorn movie to sit back and watch with the family during the holiday season and laugh at. There's a Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode of this and it was also on Elvira's Movie Macabre, if you want to make it more watchable. Quite honestly though it's funny enough on its own.

3/5 stars - Okay

Purchase Santa Claus Conquers the Martians on Amazon: Blu-Ray - DVD - MST3K - Movie Macabre

Monday, December 17, 2012

Kill Bill: Vol. 2 (2004) Review

Kill Bill Vol 2 poster
Part of Merry Christmas and Happy Tarantino Month!

Director: Quentin Tarantino
Stars: Uma Thurman, David Carradine, Daryl Hannah, Michael Madsen
Genre: Action, Martial Arts, Drama

The second half of Quentin Tarantino's revenge epic, Kill Bill.

Killing the first two on her list, The Bride continues her quest for revenge in this film and hunts down the last three...including Bill himself.

Now whereas I mentioned in my review of Kill Bill Vol. 1 that it was essentially a pure Action film with little else, Vol. 2 is a bit different. Don't kid yourself, Vol. 2 is still very much an Action film, it just adds some more Drama and is much slower paced. But this is a good thing. It allows for more character development and great dialogue.

In Kill Bill Vol. 2 we not only get to know The Bride better, but we get to better understand her relationship with Bill and what led up to the wedding massacre. We see the backstories of numerous characters and how they all feel towards each other. Whereas Vol. 1 had almost no character development at all, Vol. 2 actually has superb character development. It also allows the viewer to sympathize better with The Bride's revenge while at the same time understand why Bill did what he did.

Bill really is quite a complex and well-written character, and I plan to someday do an in-depth analysis of Kill Bill, in which I will talk more about the finer details.

Tarantino has always been known for his great dialogue, but in Vol. 1 it was so fast paced that there was hardly any dialogue at all. Vol. 2's slower pace allows us to see some great Tarantino writing in action. While I wouldn't put Vol. 2's dialogue in the same league as Pulp Fiction's, it's still pretty great.

The Bride buried alive Uma Thurman Kill Bill

That's not to say the film doesn't have some really great action. It does. The fight between The Bride and Elle Driver is insanely awesome, and even the (minor spoiler:) brief fight with Bill.

One of my favorite parts is the Pai Mei story. I've always like Pai Mei as a character and he's taken straight out of classic kung fu films like Executioners from Shaolin and Clan of the White Lotus, both of which Gordon Liu (Pai Mei) acted in, though not as Pai Mei. Pai Mei is a fairly comedic character in here but it works well. He is portrayed not only as comedic, but also as skillful and strict.

Pai Mei Gordon Liu Kill Bill

The soundtrack here is, in my opinion, not quite as good as it was in Vol. 1. It's still very good, and all the songs and the original composition by RZA are excellent. There's a lot of Ennio Morricone stuff used in here. The song "About Her" by Malcolm McLaren fits perfectly. However, the stuff Robert Rodriquez was really up to standards. All in all though it's still a fantastic soundtrack and score. 

The cast is great as is their acting performances. Uma Thurman does a still awesome job. David Carradine as Bill does wonderful, so does Michael Madsen. Daryl Hannah is good, Gordon Liu is awesome. There's even a brief Samuel L Jackson cameo.

Kill Bill Vol 2 sword

There's not much I can say about Vol. 2 that I haven't already said about Vol. 1. They're very different in tone from each other but they are perfect when watched together and indeed should be watched together as they compliment one another very well. Stay tuned for my in-depth analysis on the two films, which should be coming...eventually. Highly recommended. 

5/5 stars

Purchase Kill Bill Vol. 2 on Amazon: Blu-Ray - DVD - Stream - Vol 1 & 2 Double Feature

Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012) Review

The Hobbit An Unexpected Journey poster
Director: Peter Jackson
Stars: Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen
Genre: Fantasy

Oh, god, this was pretty bad. I suppose I'll start off by saying that be sure you see it in 48 frames-per-second. I know there's a lot of controversy and most people are against the 48 FPS, but I'll be honest, the 48 FPS was the most interesting thing about The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. It definitely looks beautiful and I think it's safe to assume that the doubled frame rate is the future of film. It is pretty exciting to see it so crisp and reality-like, it's like seeing a glimpse of films in the future. For that reason alone I'd tell you to go see The Hobbit.

Unfortunately, once the magic and excitement of the frame-rate wears off, you're left with a pretty damn mediocre film.

I should also say that I have yet to read any of Tolkien's books, so no comparisons will be made to the book. Also, I haven't watched the Lord of the Rings trilogy in a very long time, so there won't be much comparison between those (though there will be some).

The first film of a soon-to-be trilogy has very little to do with a Hobbit, despite its name, and instead mostly focuses on a gang of dwarves who seem like they'd fit better in a Snow White movie. The one Hobbit in here, Bilbo Baggins, takes the backseat in here and serves as a tag-along nuisance who contributes little to anything (though it's obvious he'll play a larger role in the next two films). They spend the film going on an adventure and being chased by Orcs.

From what I understand The Hobbit (the book) was very lighter in tone than the Lord of the Rings books. It definitely shows in the film. It's nowhere near as epic as LOTR, though it tries to be. It seems as if it were confused whether it wanted to be light-hearted or darkly epic, and instead tries (and fails) to be both. The dwarves are almost entirely used for comedic effect, their entire introductions playing like a slapstick. There's the burp jokes, the stereotypical fat dwarf, the groin hits, and two times in the beginning of the film I honestly wasn't sure whether or not I was watching a musical. Just look at this poster and tell me it doesn't look like some shitty comedy.

The Hobbit An Unexpected Journey dwarves

I understand that The Hobbit is trying to be more childlike, and on a certain level it achieves that, but I don't think that it really works in the film's favor. It's not funny, it's filled with mostly cheap humor; it's not epic or very exciting, in fact there were many parts that were boring. The few glimpses were got at large-scale battle scenes were really cool, but they only occupied a minute or so of the film's running time.

The pacing is awful; way too much exposition in the beginning and then just a jumbled mess in the second half trying to set up things for the next two films. Not to mention the numerous plot holes (the major one being how elder Bilbo is able to write the story when he was absent for many parts). The story never really got anywhere either (something that plagues a lot of first films in a trilogy). We start with at the beginning of an adventure and by the end we're still at the beginning.

The Hobbit An Unexpected Journey

The first 45-minutes of the film took place completely inside a Hobbit hole with a bunch of annoying dwarfs. It was possibly the most excruciating 45-minutes of my life and was only bearable because I was still interested with the 48fps technology and just how real everything looked. Luckily things picked up a bit once their journey finally began. But from as far as I can see the storyline just isn't very interesting.

There's no woman characters. Well there's one...who has a minor speaking role, but she's a church-like mother character. I guess it's really the source material to blame here and not the film.

A big problem I had was the way too frequent use of a deus ex machina device. Every time the dwarves are in trouble or are in a seemingly inescapable situation they are magic saved by Gandalf. It's just so boring and easy and if not for Gandalf all those idiot dwarfs and that useless hobbit would have been dead in seconds. Sticky situation? No problem, Gandalf will rescue everyone.

The ending was also extremely unsatisfying and anti-climactic. 

The Hobbit An Unexpected Journey trolls

For the most part the film looks really nice. The 48 frames-per-second helps it's visual appeal, the only problem being is that some parts are so realistic that they look very obviously fake and costumed. The 3-D was very subtle and well done. There is way more CGI use in here than in the LOTR trilogy. Way more. I've even heard this film be called The Hobbit Episode 1: Revenge of the Sith. Yeah, it's that bad. And the heavy CGI use really takes away from the magic of it all. It is, after all, supposed to be a magical story, but it just looks so fake and it detracts from your immersion and excitement and wonderment. You never look at the trolls for example and think how magical and impressive they are, because you know they were done completely with computers. I think the LOTR trilogy struck a nice balance between traditional effects and CGI, The Hobbit just overuses CGI.

The Hobbit An Unexpected Journey Gollum

The cast does a pretty good job, though nothing amazing. Ian McKellen as Gandalf is great as expected. Martin Freeman does just as good as Elijah Wood did playing the lead Hobbit (though I admittedly can't help but seeing a British office worker with pointy ears while watching this). As for the dwarfs I really don't have much to say...I kind of hated them all. Andy Serkis as Gollum will of course be viewed as a highlight of the film, which is true, it probably was my favorite scene. Gollum is creepy as ever and is probably the best looking CGI in the entire film. (The Stone Giant scene also looked pretty cool).

The soundtrack composed by Howard Shore is excellent, though much of it is taken from the LOTR films.

The Hobbit An Unexpected Journey Bilbo and dwarves

It's a very long movie, and it does feel long, but it doesn't feel as long as it actually is. There's a lot of slow, boring parts; and I admire Peter Jackson having slower parts that aren't just action, it's just unfortunate that the slow scenes aren't interesting. Hell, even the action scenes are pretty uninteresting. I couldn't care less about this Dwarf king and his feud with some pale Orc. I don't care! Both the dwarf and orc are so characterless. 

On an unrelated note, did there seem to be an abundance of drug references and implications present? Not only the very direct mushroom one but they also seemed to imply that Gandalf is high as a kite the entire time.

The Hobbit An Unexpected Journey Stone Giant

I suspect that it's likely I may like the next two installments in the trilogy better being that this first one was largely plagued by what many firsts in trilogy are plagued by: setting things up. The only way I can recommend seeing this is if you are huge Tolkien fans or simply to witness the groundbreaking and stunning 48 frames-per-second. Otherwise it's one of the worst films of the year.

2/5 stars

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